Most parents going through a divorce agree that their children are their primary concern. They want to make sure their children have happy, stable homes while maintaining a positive relationship with both parents.
Determining the right custody agreement for your family isn’t as easy as “I’ll take them this week and you can have them next week.” You need to make decisions about which parent will be responsible for certain aspects of the children’s upbringing, who has the right to make final decisions about the child’s medical, educational, and other needs, and more. You also must determine the proper child support arrangement to distribute the financial responsibility for your kids. When you’re already going through the emotional process of divorce, making life-altering plans like this in a rational way isn’t an easy task.
Our specialized child custody lawyers at Oxendine Law have over 25 years of combined experience in domestic and family litigation. We’re highly knowledgeable about the legal process of reaching custody agreements and about how to help divorcing couples find the best way to prepare their children for a safe and happy future. In addition, we recognize that details and family arrangements can change over the years. We have extensive experience modifying custody arrangements from previous orders to accommodate the best interests of the children.
To get started on your child custody case, schedule a meeting with our family lawyers in Gwinnett County.
Frequently Asked Questions About Child Custody
Georgia child custody laws are more complex than many people realize. Take a look at some of the most common questions from our family law clients.
Custody just means deciding who cares for a child, right?
It’s actually more complex than that. There are two types of child custody in Georgia:
- Physical custody: refers to which parent a child physically lives with for the majority of the time. The parent with the most parenting time is known as the ‘primary physical custodian’. In a case where the children spend equal time with each parent, the parents are considered ‘joint physical’ parents.
- Legal custody: Legal custody refers to your right to act on behalf of a child who’s a minor. It includes the right to obtain the child’s medical and educational records, and otherwise act as their legal guardian. The vast majority of custody cases result in the parents sharing ‘joint legal custody’.
In addition to legal custody, the parents must determine who has the final decision-making or “tie-breaking” authority. This refers to the parent that makes the ultimate choice about non-emergency medical decisions, educational decisions, extracurricular activity decisions and religious decisions if the parents aren’t able to agree after good faith discussions.
Is it true that the mother always gets preference in child custody court?
No. The child custody laws in Georgia are gender-neutral. Both parents have the opportunity to present their case to the Court and request physical and legal custody without gender bias. There is no special treatment for mothers, and fathers are encouraged to request custody if desired. The standard by which the Court rules is the “best interests of the child” standard.
What is a guardian ad litem? Will there be one in my custody case?
In special cases where parents cannot agree on custody, or have an extremely challenging relationship, the court may require a custody evaluation, or even appoint a guardian ad litem. A guardian ad litem is an attorney appointed solely to represent the children and to assist the Court in determining what is in the best interests of the children.
Is it possible for neither myself nor my child’s other parent to get custody?
In only a few extreme family law cases, third parties (such as grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts, uncles, great aunts, great uncles, siblings, or adoptive parents) may gain custody of the child, or visitation rights to the child, if it is determined to be in the best interest of the child. These situations typically occur in cases where there is abuse, neglect or if both parents are unfit; or in some cases if one parent is deployed in the military.
How does the Court decide the details of a custody arrangement?
Georgia’s Courts consider a variety of factors in every custody case, including:
- Child’s wishes (if the child is at least 11)
- Parents’ mental and physical health
- Parents’ work schedules and flexibility to care for child
- Relationship between the child and their siblings
- Parents’ abilities to financially provide for the child
- Safety of each home environment
- Parents’ willingness to encourage a relationship between the child and the other parent
- Living proximity between parents and child
- Relationships between the child and each parent
- Parents’ involvement in child’s educational, social and extracurricular activities
- Evidence of domestic violence or abuse
- Evidence of criminal activity
It can be challenging to account for all of these factors in order to show that you are a strong custodian for your child. Our child custody lawyers can guide you through the process.